“Like an old man, which I am, I found myself yearning for the time, no, not the time, for the life that has gone by. Not my own biological, chronological life, but the life of the place where I was born.”
These words, written by a distinguished Hindi author, Vishwanath, in a letter to a friend, are at the very heart of this complex, densely-woven, generation-spanning novel.
An old man, a writer, clever with words, is writing.
As he writes, he reminisces about the Delhi that he knew as a child, he writes about family, he writes about the child he has lost, he writes about regret.
Family is at the very heart of the book. Well, families, more precisely, since we follow the stories of different families, with their stories paralleling each other and intertwining over the generations.
Lineage, protecting your family and its wealth, passing the baton to future generations – these sentiments are counterpointed against the sad reality of exclusion, of love unfulfilled, of the inability to express the love that steers so many of the emotions and reaction in the novel.
Mr. Bagchi writes beautifully, offering us lovely, long complex sentences that are a joy to read, quite apart from their narrative value. One imagines the author to be a deeply thoughtful and eloquent man, so well does he understand the driving force of a writer, and of one who yearns to learn more about religion and philosophy.
His male characters, across the generations and the class divisions are strongly drawn. Although a couple of his female characters are also strongly portrayed, men dominate this story, their histories the ones that bind the generations. The connection between a family’s history and its forefathers is constantly played out and replayed in this novel, which spans generations of the same families.
As the rich trader Lala Motichand musing about family and its origins and future obligations puts it:
“After all, they belonged to the class of people for whom the family and its generations are like a single living organism whose long lifespan…is an unending thread woven into the unrolling tapestry of human history.”
This is a novel to be savoured – for its fine writing, its beautiful prose and for a long, languorous telling of the history of ordinary men and women, of their families, of their errors, and very often their regrets.
I was sent a copy of the book by the publishers Juggernaut, but absolutely no pressure was put on me for a review, favourable or otherwise. Thank you.
Do read this novel. It is a great read.
Here’s the link to buy it online: